We are just days away from the kickoff of the 2009 NASCAR season. The Budweiser Shootout takes place Saturday night as 28 drivers take to the track for one of the season's invitation-only, non-points paying event.
This is also part one of a weekly Power Ranking I will put out sometime during the week before each race. This is my first attempt, so the layout may change a bit as we get through the season and I figure new stuff out.
1. Jeff Gordon — It's easy to see why Gordon tops the list of the Power Rankings heading into the Budweiser Shootout. Gordon leads the way among active drivers with 12 wins on restrictor plate racetracks (an astounding 18 percent of the time he visits the high banks he wins).
He also leads the way with 24 top-fives and is second (behind only Mark Martin) with 33 career top-10 finishes.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. — Anytime you visit the high banks of Daytona and/or Talladega Junior will be near the top of the list. As the defending winner of the 2008 Budweiser Shootout, Junior knows how to get around the track at Daytona.
He ranks second among active drivers with seven wins on restrictor plate tracks. He has racked up 13 top-fives and 21 top-10 finishes in 36 career starts.
3. Jimmie Johnson — although Johnson has won only twice on the restrictor plate tracks, he has an average finish of 16.6 in his 28 career restrictor plate starts. He also has brought in nine top-fives and 14 top-10 finishes. Johnson has won the past three championships and is a contender at every track he visits.
4. Tony Stewart — Some will think that Stewart is too high on this list as he enters with a new team in '09. However, he is driving Hendrick equipment and knows his way around the restrictor plate tracks. He has three career wins on the high banked tracks and 15 top-fives and 22 top-10 finishes.
Stewart was also leading the way heading into Turn 4 of last year's Daytona 500, and is always there at the end. (And by the way, the new rule to allow a "wild-card" entry, don't think it didn't have a lot to do with Smoke getting into the field.)
5. Kyle Busch — It will be interesting to see if Busch can dominate the first half of the 2009 season like he did in '08. He runs fairly well at the restrictor plate tracks and has two wins in 16 career starts. He also has five top-fives and five top-10 finishes and an average finish of 20.7.
6. Kevin Harvick — Winner of the 2007 Daytona 500, Harvick has proven he can get it done on the high banks in sunny Florida. The lone win is his only in 31 career starts, but he has recorded six top-fives and 12 top-10 finishes. He averages a finish of 15.3.
7. Bobby Labonte — Yates Racing typically does good on restrictor plate tracks and this year with Labonte behind the wheel should be no different. While he has only one win in 64 career starts, Labonte has 11 top-fives, 20 top-10 finishes and an average finish of 20th.
Busch has yet to win on a restrictor plate track in his 32 career starts, but inched closer last February, giving Penske Racing a 1-2 finish. Busch has 14 top-fives, 19 top-10 finishes and an average finish of 15.4 on restrictor plate tracks.
9. Carl Edwards — While Edwards is another driver with a goose-egg in the win column at restrictor plate tracks, he had to be included in the Power Rankings. His numbers aren't that impressive at three top-fives and five top-10 finishes in 17 career starts, but his average finish is 23.3 and he is one of the toughest race car drivers (on and off the track) in the Series today.
10. Michael Waltrip — When you have only four career victories, it may not feel like you have accomplished much, but all four of Waltrip's have come on the high banks of either Daytona or Talladega. He proved last year that Michael Waltrip Racing is headed in the right direction and could be a sleeper this Saturday night in the Shootout.
Waltrip has started 82 restrictor plate races and sits third behind Junior for most wins among active drivers. He has recorded 13 top-fives and 25 top-10 finishes with an average finish of 20.1
There are my Power Rankings heading into the Shootout this weekend, obviously some of these will change as we prepare for the Daytona 500 and include a lot of other names that won't be on the track this weekend.
Previous Rankings: Shootout |
Editor's note: Beginning on Friday, six of our NASCAR writers will kick off the 2009 Creature vs. Creature: NASCAR Picks. Each of the writers will give their pick for the upcoming Budweiser Shootout, their champion and the top-12 drivers entering the '09 Chase.